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Associations Now

How Being Well Makes You a Better Leader

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, March/April 2014 Leadership

By: Mariama S. Boney, CAE

Summary: When your life is out of balance, your work suffers, but it's about a lot more than that. Learn concrete ways to improve your well-being in five key areas. It will make you a healthier person and a more effective leader.

In this high-demand, multitasking, instant-messaging culture, how do we focus our time, energy, and talents on what matters most?

Two years ago, this question came up for me. I had been working 16-hour days for a year due to staff transitions, a colleague's death, and major leadership changes at work. I seldom saw my family, rarely took time off, ended a relationship, and was struggling with my weight and high blood pressure.

My out-of-balance life was also affecting my work. It made me distant and less effective in my leadership role. I was retreating from my team and colleagues, and the quality of my work was suffering.

One day, I sat at my desk with my head in my hands and thought, "Something has to change."

Shortly after that day I attended a conference where I participated in a session about the essential elements of well-being found in five different aspects of our lives, identified by Gallup research: career, social, financial, physical, and community. The researchers discovered that approximately two-thirds of people are doing well in at least one domain, but only 7 percent are thriving in all five.

The interconnection of these domains each day determines our influence and ability to lead. I began to learn more about my well-being and started using a daily well-being tracker. I learned that I could make better choices and act more decisively if I focused on my own well-being. So I set out to enhance it in the five areas:

Career: I began working with an executive coach to better define my strengths, set goals, and increase team interaction. I got my CAE and expanded my participation as an ASAE volunteer.

Social: I set aside time to connect with colleagues or mentors twice a month, call family each week, go to networking events, and attend two cultural events each month.

Financial: I consolidated accounts to focus on my savings, expanding my capacity to contribute to social and association causes I value.

Physical: I started exercising 20–60 minutes each day and making healthier food choices. That led to weight loss (35 pounds!), better sleep, and lower blood pressure.

Community: I became more active in my church and volunteer efforts.

At work, things changed. Attending to my well-being enhances my strengths and allows me to operate more strategically and with better focus. I work on higher-level projects, and my team of 70 is more organized and has more confidence in me and the organizational changes I'm leading them through.

What will you do to improve your own well-being and enhance your leadership? Consider one action step you can take in the next week, and then take it. Enjoy the journey!

Mariama S. Boney, MSW, CAE, is university information director at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She chairs ASAE's Diversity and Inclusion Committee and is a member of the Diversity Executive Leadership Program 2008–09 class. Email: boneymariama@hotmail.com

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "On Being Well"]

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